Dictation Software Improves Usability, Accuracy
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And this week marks a milestone in the world of voice recognition software. A program is shipping that allows you to dictate directly to your computer right out of the box, as NPR's Adam Davidson tested it for the rest of us.
ADAM DAVIDSON reporting:
Up until now, voice recognition, or dictation software, required training. You read long passages so the software can get used to your voice. No longer.
Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 claims to work immediately: no training needed. Here's my first attempt.
I have just opened the program for the first time, and it is getting every word accurately.
Pretty good. But what if I don't talk like a robot. Here's attempt number two.
Even when I speak a little more quickly, it still gets every single word correctly. It's pretty amazing. I don't have to speak slowly at all.
Soon, I read a page of complex writing from the Economist Magazine. Dragon got everything except some oddly spelled proper names. This is revolutionary stuff.
Last time I tried Dragon software a few years ago, it was simply lousy. Now it's so good, I wondered if professional transcriptionists are worried.
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I went to NYC Transcriptions in New York, where Kevin Degadon(ph) told me he's not scared. Dragon needs high quality audio or it doesn't work. The tapes his customers send in are anything but high quality.
Mr. KEVIN DEGADON (NYC Transcriptions, New York): We've got tapes that are muffled, tapes that you have ten people speaking in a room at once, virtually. A lot of our clients don't know that much about recording.
DAVIDSON: I decided to check how Dragon does with more than one voice.
ROBERT KRULWICH reporting:
DAVIDSON: Do you have a sec?
I asked my NPR colleague, Robert Krulwich, to speak to Dragon with me.
KRULWICH: How are you?
DAVIDSON: I'm fine.
KRULWICH: You are fine?
DAVIDSON: I'm very fine.
KRULWICH: Do you have a wallet?
DAVIDSON: I don't think you have to talk like that!
KRULWICH: Well, let's just see!
DAVIDSON: With two voices, the program became hopelessly confused, getting almost none of the words right.
That will come, a Dragon spokesman said. In two years or so, the software should work with multiple voices. For now though, transcriptionists are safe. In fact, the makers of Dragon NaturallySpeaking just bought a large transcription company.
But for people who need single-voice transcriptions, doctors, lawyers - the software is probably good enough already.
Adam Davidson, NPR News, New York.
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MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.